When the subject of the alarming increase in the rate of breakdowns came up in the next staff meeting, everyone became alarmed.
"Is this true?!"
"How can we still contest if our mechs don't work anymore?"
"We can send our armed Vandals and Swordmaidens in on foot!"
"You daft idiot! With what weapons?! Our comms, combat armor and firearms won't work anymore! What are we going to fight with?! Our fists?!"
"The Swordmaidens will likely take to that environment like fish in water." Someone joked half-seriously. "Just think about it. Half of their individual combat prowess is tied to their genetic modifications and their razor-sharp swords. The breakdown effect won't affect their combat effectiveness at all!"
That put the Vandals to thought. If no one came up with a solution that counteracted the breakdown effect, then the Swordmaidens would likely reign supreme within a hundred kilometers of the Starlight Megalodon!
Every rival force would be forced back to square one!
While that may please Lydia's Swordmaidens immensely, what about the Vandals? Almost none of their ranks boasted any genetic freaks. While Ves may be a rare exception, without commando training he'd be worse than useless in such a perilous deployment.
"As much as the Swordmaidens are capable in a battle on foot, don't forget that they have to depend on gravitic backpacks just like us." Ves pointed out. "Or else, how can they possibly traverse and fight under six times the gravity of Old Earth? They'd barely be able to stand upright as it is, let alone walk!"
Right now, the entire reason why everyone wore hazard suits, piloting suits and combat armor all the time was because they could carry a gravitic backpack around at all times! If not for this modular accessory, if the antigrav fields around the camp broke down for whatever reason, they wouldn't instantly get crushed!
While that hadn't happened as of yet, as they slowly marched closer to the Starlight Megalodon, the breakdown effect slowly became much more pervasive, affecting any and all components within range.
Even the gadgets that Ves worked hard to develop previously suffered from the same risk.Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
Therefore, neither Ves or anyone else in the meeting wanted to give in to the circumstances. They really needed to find a solution for the breakdown effect!
"The ancient cities may have a solution." Chief Dakkon said. "When we visited Mulak and observed Samar with our spy drones, it has become clear that they developed a means to keep the gravity there at standard levels. How do they do that? Our current speculation is that they managed to do so through non-technological means, but what if they still retained a way to keep their antigrav modules functional? The ancient cities also make use of a power source somehow. We never really close to them to find out what those power sources look like and how they function."
The chief engineer pointed out a possible solution for them all. If they could enter an ancient city and study their old, durable devices, they might be able to solve the breakdown effect!
If the ancient cities didn't make use of mechanical technology and instead used something organic, then that was fine as well, because at least they'd be able to arm their infantrymen with organic antigrav modules or something.
Captain Byrd took this course of action seriously. "There's one more ancient city in the way before there won't be any in our route. If we decide we wish to engage with an ancient city, then now is the time to decide."
"The ancient cities are dangerous, ma'am!" A logistics officer said. "They're filled with superstitious savages and sacred gods that don't know the immensity of heaven and earth! We're bound to have a repeat of what happened at Samar if we approach them recklessly!"
Many Vandals agreed with that sentiment. The sacred gods that ruled over the city and the surrounding territory might take affront at the foreigners and go on the attack!
However, Captain Orfan saw an opportunity there. "Is it really so bad if the sacred gods go on the offensive? We'd have a valid excuse to defeat and capture them like we did with Qilanxo! If we can't use any mechs near the Starlight Megalodon, what about our tamed sacred gods? As long as we ride on a couple exobeasts, it would be the same as if we deployed mechs in an infantry battle!"
This sounded extremely attractive! Also, it sounded like something their rival forces might do as well!
"Remember that we aren't the only ones who have to deal with the breakdown effect. What if the pirates and Vesians who we know are on the surface are faced with the same problems? I bet you they'll turn on the natives and capture their powerful sacred gods for their own uses. They're the strongest weapon we can bring at the center of the crash site!"
More and more people argued in favor of approaching an ancient city. Either they could establish peaceful relations and trade for the things they wanted, or if negotiations failed they could simply take what they wanted by force in true Vandal style!
However, Captain Byrd and a couple of other conservative Vandals who felt burned when Pairixan came close to wiping out the Vandals deeply feared another confrontation with the city dwellers.
"Taking on an ancient city is no trivial issue. The reigning sacred god is always a powerhouse with the strength to suppress an entire region!"
"We still have Qilanxo!" Captain Orfan pointed out. "The big girl can act as our diplomat and interpreter! If the city folk see her first, they won't think have a strong as a reaction than if we present them with our mechs!"
The natives had never seen any mechs in their lives and always tended to see the worst in them. Rather than show up with something completely foreign on this planet, why not adopt some of the local customs and aesthetics, if only to present a familiar sight?
Trade and interaction did sometimes occur between the ancient cities.
However, sending out a captive with uncertain loyalties to be their spokesperson came with other risks. What if Qilanxo rebelled and sought refuge with the ancient city? Though she had largely been docile and cooperate among the Flagrant Swordmaidens, that was partially because she was surrounded by mechs at all times.
She had no hope of escape so far!
However, if Qilanxo came near to the ancient city, it wasn't out of the question that she might call on the assistance of its sacred gods.
An argument raged back and forth on whether to approach the ancient city at all, and if so, to come riding Qilanxo or piloting their mechs.
"Alright, that's enough! PIPE DOWN!" Captain Byrd forcefully halted the back-and-forth. "Obviously, this is a major decision that requires much more consideration. Let's table the issue for now. I'd like for some of you to take a step back and analyze the pros and cons of each option. I'll take these reports and confer with Commander Lydia on our decision. We have two days until we are scheduled to move out. Will our experiments with the captive wild gods be done by then?"
Chief Dakkon and Dr. Tillman nodded.
"Our experiments are almost done. Subject 3 is on his last legs. The bonded wild god won't last much longer, and Dwarf 3 is pretty much a vegetable at this point." Dakkon said.
"We have completed our dissection of Subject 1 remains." Dr. Tillman reported. "We can speed up our investigations of Subject 2's carcass and carve it into smaller pieces so we can perform our experiments on the move. The same goes for Subject 3 when he is at our disposal."
While they preferred to stay in a fixed location to perform their research, they couldn't afford to stall in place for long. They just had to be resigned with studying tissue samples in the mobile lab facilities aboard the heavy transports.
After the meeting, Ves didn't go back to the labs, but instead tracked down Talkative Jimmy for another status update.
During their occasional meetings, Ves and Jimmy became fairly familiar with each other. While neither would call each other a friend, they were firm acquaintances with shared interests.
"What's Venerable Xie up to these days?" Ves immediately asked.
"He's laying low like always." Jimmy replied in a casual tone as he took a draft of his drink. They met in the bar this time. "Something is different, though. He's getting annoyed at his own mech. The Pale Dancer is suffering from a lot more malfunctions than any other mech. It's driving his pet mech designer crazy!"
Ves smirked. "The Pale Dancer is a highly-advanced precision machine. It's ten times more sophisticated than a regular mech, and while all of its parts are fairly robust, all the cushioning can't do much against the all-pervasive breakdown effect."
In the intervening months, Venerable Xie hardly inducted more mech pilots into his circle. Instead, he wormed his way into the hearts of Miss Lisbeth Eta-Denmersken and her specialist crew.
Miss Lisbeth proved to be an easy mech designer to charm. Despite the conditioning that Ves forced her to go through, she couldn't help but go back to old habits.
Ves knew that this course of action was inevitable, and so didn't make any moves to stop it. If not her, then Venerable Xie would have wooed another mech designer.
At the very least, Miss Lisbeth didn't possess any exceptional capabilities other than her capability to work with expert mechs. Even then, the Pale Dancer was such a foreign mech to her that she needed years to become familiar with its design.
"I think Venerable Xie is making some moves behind the scenes. Strange stuff is happening around him. Word is starting to spread that this breakdown effect will only get worse when we get closer to the Starlight Megalodon. Is that true?" Jimmy asked carefully.
In order to make sure no one eavesdropped on their conversation, Ves quietly activated his signal jammer. He set it at low power in order to avoid drawing the attention of the rest of the bar.
"I just came out of a meeting discussing the very same thing. The news will spread among the rest soon enough I think. The point is that eventually breakdowns will happen so often that hardly anything will work for long. Within a range of a hundred kilometers, there's no way to field any mechs, because they won't even be able to activate. By then, the value of Venerable Xie and the Pale Dancer will certainly diminish."
Even if the Flagrant Swordmaidens couldn't find a solution to the breakdown effect, that didn't mean that their mechs became useless. Even if they sent Vandals and Swordmaidens to the crash site on foot, the remainder still needed to secure their escape route.
Ves expected that most of the mechs of the rival forces would be operating at the periphery. Perhaps the forces may decide to come to blows if they didn't think their infantrymen stood a chance!
"I don't presume to know what Venerable Xie is planning, but he is definitely preparing for something big." Jimmy said. "Something so drastic that he doesn't dare to pop out his head. He even curtailed his training sessions with his sycophants."
That sounded worrisome. Though the expert pilot didn't need to guide his group of cultivated mech pilots so often after instructing them for a while, it nevertheless indicated that Veneragble Xie may truly be planning something nefarious!
"What do you really think, Jimmy? I don't believe you haven't thought of anything. Spill."
Jimmy gazed at Ves with a shifty expression. "I really don't want to presume. However, from my experience.. I don't expect anything good."
"Does Captain Byrd know?"
"She does. I'm not the only Vandal keeping my eye on our expert pilot. Still, Venerable Xie has been laying low for so long that it's hard to think he's up to something. She's distracted with other matters."
Compared to an increasingly acute problem like the breakdown effect, she had no time to go into other matters, particularly if they didn't show any signs of blowing up. Ves feared that Captain Byrd might be neglecting the dangers of keeping her attention away from the foreign expert pilot!
However, even if he suspected anything, what could he do? For over two months, he hadn't done anything because his hands were tied. He didn't even dare to come close to Venerable Xie in person. He also had no way of accessing the Pale Dancer to implement some changes because either Miss Lisbeth or the expert pilot himself hovered closely to the expert at all times!